Saturday, January 14, 2017

Movie Review: Blair Witch

Title: Blair Witch
Release Date: September 16, 2016
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez
Director: Adam Wingard
Runtime: 1hr 29min
Rating: R
View on IMDB

A young man and his friends venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mystery surrounding his missing sister. Many believe her disappearance 20 years earlier is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when two locals act as guides through the dark and winding woods. As the night wears on, a visit from a menacing presence soon makes them realize that the legend is all too real, and more sinister than they could have ever imagined.

Blair Witch is the sequel to The Blair Witch Project, the 1999 horror film that fooled a hell of a lot of people into believing it was all real. Of course, there was already a sequel, Book of Shadows, released in 2000 (but we don't speak of that one). The Blair Witch Project easily makes one of my top 10 horror flicks of all time (I've talked about it here and here), so I was hesitantly excited when I heard of Blair Witch. Before I saw it, I heard that Blair Witch might as well be a remake instead of a sequel, but with modern technology. Still, I went into it open and hoping to at least enjoy it.

James is the main character of this story and I was surprised to find out that he was (apparently) the brother of Heather, the main character of The Blair Witch Project. It has been 20 years since she went missing in the woods and for some reason he has only now decided to go looking for her... because his sister might still be alive... in the woods... 20 years later. This was where my issues with Blair Witch began, only minutes in.

There are, of course, other characters. Lisa is the girl who James is kind of into, their friends Ashley and Peter, and the two locals, Lane and Talia, who agree to be their guides. Gone is the large camera from the original movie. Unfortunately, none of these characters have enough real screen time to become in any way memorable or sympathetic. Peter is the one who almost immediately freaks out and wants to go back, while Ashley gets injured right off the bat by walking through a river without shoes on. Lane and Talia prove themselves to be utterly useless and for some reason everyone sleeps in their own individual tents instead of sticking together in woods they know to be, you know, not right.

I should've listened to those who said this was basically a remake. This time around they have cameras that fit into their ears, drones, and other various cameras to record from every angle. Sadly, with this new technology, Blair Witch loses a lot of the mystery and suspense the original had. In The Blair Witch Project, the entire movie is filmed on a single camera, making it truly feel like real found footage. This one, however, is edited to show every conversation and trek from several different angles. It just lost all authenticity for me.

Speaking of the severe lack of suspense, Blair Witch relies far too much on jump scares. Where the original film showed a weird pile of rocks here, a stick figure there, or a character hearing strange voices, the sequel is 90% people running around and then bumping into each other and screaming. There was no real buildup and I felt very little actual fear. While there were a couple good scares during the hour and a half of runtime, it just was not enough to sell me.

All in all, this movie was just weird. The premise of Heather's brother looking for her 20 years after her disappearance alone is extremely questionable and the behavior of this group of people who have supposedly watched the original footage did not make any sense. Blair Witch did a lot of strange things with the mythology of the Witch - things that were totally unnecessary. I've also read that the directors backtracked from their original claims about the movie after it received (deserved) backlash from the public.

Though it was fun to return to the world of the Blair Witch in a way that was so similar to the original film, it just did not live up to my expectations at all. The premise was shaky, the scares were lazy, and the characters were really pretty dumb. At first I thought it might actually turn out okay, but the further it went on, the more I realized how much I disliked it.